Previous studies of variation in interlanguage morphology have led to conflicting and contradictory claims concerning the relation between interlanguage forms and the contexts in which they occur. The present study suggests that such contradictions are due to the descriptively inadequate model of variation used in earlier studies. A multivariate model is proposed and applied to the analysis of variation in the acquisition of the English (s) pluralizaron rule by native speakers of Chinese. Three major groups of factors are shown to influence variation: stage of acquisition, linguistic environment, and communicative redundancy. Findings confirm the hypothesis that there exists a degree of systematicity in interlanguage, but suggest that the interlanguage system is best described in terms of probabilistic rules.
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